Caramoor’s 2018 Summer Season comes to a close with Orchestra of St. Luke’s led by Nicholas McGegan and the inimitable mezzo-soprano Susan Graham. Performing selections from the roles that brought her renown, the first half of the program feature selections from Handel’s Ariodante and Alcinia followed by Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro and La Clemenza di Tito. Join us in celebrating a summer full of music and be sure to come early for a pre-concert conversation with Nicholas McGegan.
“Graham’s mezzo-soprano is a voice without regrets, healthy, rounded, ineffably musical, and eager for a challenge.” — The New Yorker
Orchestra of St. Luke’s
Nicholas McGegan, conductor
Susan Graham, mezzo-soprano
Handel Overture, Gavotte, and Bourrée from Ariodante Handel “Dopo notte” from Ariodante Handel “Scherza infida” from Ariodante Handel Overture to Alcina Handel “Sta nell’ Ircana” from Alcina — Intermission — Mozart Overture to Le Nozze di Figaro Mozart “Non so più” from Le Nozze di Figaro Mozart “Voi che sapete” from Le Nozze di Figaro Mozart Symphony No. 36 “Linz” Mozart “Deh per questo” from La Clemenza di Tito
3:00 pm Pre-concert conversation with Nicholas McGegan
Complimentary Garden Listening Tickets for Members at the Family Level and above
Nicholas McGegan is “one of the finest baroque conductors of his generation” (Independent) and “an expert in 18th-century style” (New Yorker). In his capacity as Music Director of San Francisco based Philharmonia Baroque he has established the group as the leading period band in America. In 2005 they marked their 20-year association with concerts at Carnegie Hall, their first European tour with appearances at the BBC Proms, Snape Maltings Aldeburgh, the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, and the International Handel Festival, Göttingen where McGegan was Artistic Director 1991–2011. He is also the Principal Guest Conductor of Pasadena Symphony.
Active in opera as well as the concert hall, he has been Principal Guest Conductor of Scottish Opera and Principal Conductor of Sweden’s 18th Century theatre in Drottingholm, running the annual festival there.
In his capacity as Music Director of San Francisco based Philharmonia Baroque Nicholas McGegan has established the group as the leading period band in America. In 2005 they marked their 20-year association with concerts at Carnegie Hall, the BBC Proms, Snape Maltings Aldeburgh, the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, and the International Handel Festival, Göttingen.
He has been a pioneer in the process of exporting historically informed performance practice beyond the world of period instruments to wider conventional symphonic forces, guest-conducting with orchestras such as the Chicago, St Louis, Toronto, Montreal, and Sydney Symphony Orchestras, the New York, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestras, the Cleveland, Philadelphia, Houston, and Concertgebouw Orchestras as well as the Royal Scottish National, BBC Scottish Symphony, Scottish Chamber, Royal Northern Sinfonia, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and CBSO Baroque Ensemble, Capella Savaria at the Esterházy Festival, and the Hallé.
Opera companies he works with include Royal Opera House Covent Garden, San Francisco, Santa Fe, and Washington. He has broken new ground in experimental dance-collaborations with Mark Morris, notably at festivals such as Edinburgh International, and Ravinia.
His discography of over 100 releases includes the world premiere recording of Handel’s Susanna, which attracted both a Gramophone Award and Grammy nomination. Recent issues of the same composer’s works include Solomon, Samson and Acis, and Galatea (a rarity in that it unearths the little-known version adapted by Felix Mendelssohn). Among his other rediscoveries is the first performance in modern times of Handel’s masterly but mislaid Gloria. Other important releases on Philharmonia Baroque’s own label include Brahms Serenades, Berlioz Nuits D’Ete, Haydn Symphonies, Vivaldi Four Seasons, and Handel Atalanta.
Recent highlights include conducting the Royal Northern Sinfonia at Stage@theDock, Hull in a water-themed programme for the BBC Proms, the festival’s first concert outside of London since the 1930s. Highlights of the 2017/18 season include returning to conduct the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in the world premiere of Sally Beamish’s The Judas Passion, co-commissioned by the OAE and the Philharmonia Baroque. He will also conduct the Orquestra Sinfonica do Porto at Casa da Musica, the Bergen Philharmonic, and the SWR Symphonieorchester.
Born in England, he was educated at Cambridge and Oxford universities. His awards include an honorary professorship at Georg-August University, Göttingen, the Hallé Handel Prize, an order of merit of the state of Lower Saxony, a medal of Honour of the City of Goettingen and an official Nicholas McGegan Day, declared by the Mayor of San Francisco for two decades of distinguished work with the Philharmonia Baroque.
He was made an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2010.
Susan Graham — hailed as “an artist to treasure” by The New York Times — rose to the highest echelon of international performers within just a few years of her professional debut, mastering an astonishing range of repertoire and genres along the way. Her operatic roles span four centuries, from Monteverdi’s Poppea to Sister Helen Prejean in Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking, which was written especially for her. A familiar face at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, she also maintains a strong international presence at such key venues as Paris’ Théâtre du Châtelet, the Sydney Opera House, Santa Fe Opera, and the Hollywood Bowl. She won a Grammy Award for her collection of Ives songs, and her recital repertoire is so broad that 14 composers from Purcell to Sondheim are represented on her most recent Onyx album, Virgins, Vixens & Viragos. This distinctly American artist has also been recognized throughout her career as one of the foremost exponents of French vocal music. Although a native of Texas, she was awarded the French government’s prestigious “Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur,” both for her popularity as a performer in France and in honor of her commitment to French music.
To launch the 2017-18 season, Graham sings Berlioz’s La damnation de Faust with the Boston Symphony under Charles Dutoit. After reprising her star turn in the title role of Susan Stroman’s take on Lehár’s The Merry Widow at the Met, she joins Nathan Gunn for Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti at Lyric Opera of Chicago, in a special production to mark the composer’s 100th birthday. To conclude the operatic season, she makes her title role debut opposite James Morris in Marc Blitzstein’s 1948 opera Regina at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. Back at the Boston Symphony, she joins Andris Nelsons for Mahler’s Third Symphony, which is also the vehicle for her summer collaborations with the orchestra at Tanglewood and in Europe. Besides reuniting with Dutoit for Ravel’s Shéhérazade at the San Francisco Symphony, she graces a gala concert to celebrate Tulsa Opera’s 70th anniversary and gives solo recitals at Atlanta’s Emory University and the Washington University in St. Louis.
Among Susan Graham’s numerous honors are Musical America‘s Vocalist of the Year and an Opera News Award, while Gramophone magazine has dubbed her “America’s favorite mezzo.”
Last season, Graham partnered Renée Fleming for the San Francisco Symphony’s opening-night gala, and joined Anna Netrebko, Plácido Domingo, and a host of other luminaries to celebrate the Metropolitan Opera’s five decades at its Lincoln Center home. Having created the role of Sister Helen Prejean in the world premiere production of Dead Man Walking, she starred in Washington National Opera’s revival of the opera, making her triumphant role debut as the convict’s mother. She returned to Santa Fe Opera as Prince Orlofsky in a new production of Johann Strauss II’s Die Fledermaus, and reprised her signature portrayal of Dido in Berlioz’s Les Troyens at Chicago’s Lyric Opera. Her concert highlights included selections from Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn at Carnegie Hall and from Canteloube’s Chants d’Auvergne with the Philadelphia Orchestra, as well as a star-studded Der Rosenkavalier at the Boston Symphony. She gave U.S. recitals of “Frauenliebe und-leben Variations,” her program inspired by the Schumann song cycle, and expanded her discography with Nonesuch Records’ DVD/Blu-ray release of William Kentridge’s new treatment of Berg’s Lulu, which captures her celebrated role debut as Countess Geschwitz at the Met.
Graham’s earliest operatic successes were in such trouser roles as Cherubino in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro. Her technical expertise soon brought mastery of Mozart’s more virtuosic roles, like Sesto in La clemenza di Tito, Idamante in Idomeneo, and Cecilio in Lucio Silla, as well as the title roles of Handel’s Ariodante and Xerxes. She went on to triumph in two iconic Richard Strauss mezzo roles, Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier and the Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos. These brought her to prominence on all the world’s major opera stages, including the Met, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, Covent Garden, Paris Opera, La Scala, Bavarian State Opera, Vienna State Opera, and the Salzburg Festival, among many others. In addition to creating the role of Sister Helen Prejean at San Francisco Opera, she sang the leading ladies in the Met’s world premieres of John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby and Tobias Picker’s An American Tragedy, and made her Dallas Opera debut as Tina in a new production of The Aspern Papers by Dominick Argento. As Houston Grand Opera’s Lynn Wyatt Great Artist, she starred as Prince Orlofsky in the company’s first staging of Die Fledermaus in 30 years, before heading an all-star cast as Sycorax in the Met’s Baroque pastiche The Enchanted Island and making her rapturously received musical theater debut in a new production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris.
It was in an early Lyon production of Berlioz’s Béatrice et Bénédict that Graham scored particular raves from the international press, and a triumph in the title role of Massenet’s Chérubin at Covent Garden sealed her operatic stardom. Further invitations to collaborate on French music were forthcoming from many of its preeminent conductors, including Sir Colin Davis, Charles Dutoit, James Levine, and Seiji Ozawa. New productions of Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride, Berlioz’s La damnation de Faust, and Massenet’s Werther were mounted for the mezzo in New York, London, Paris, Chicago, San Francisco, and beyond. She recently made title role debuts in Offenbach’s comic masterpieces La belle Hélène and The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein at Santa Fe Opera, as well as proving herself the standout star of the Met’s star-studded revival of Les Troyens, which was broadcast live to cinema audiences worldwide in the company’s celebrated “Live in HD” series. Graham’s affinity for French repertoire has not been limited to the opera stage, also serving as the foundation for her extensive concert and recital career. Such great cantatas and symphonic song cycles as Berlioz’s La mort de Cléopâtre and Les nuits d’été, Ravel’s Shéhérazade, and Chausson’s Poème de l’amour et de la mer provide opportunities for collaborations with the world’s leading orchestras, and she makes regular appearances with the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Orchestre de Paris, and London Symphony Orchestra.
Graham’s distinguished discography features all the works described above, as well as a series of lauded solo albums, including Un frisson français, a program of French song recorded with pianist Malcolm Martineau for Onyx; C’est ça la vie, c’est ça l’amour!, an album of 20th-century operetta rarities on Erato; and La Belle Époque, an award-winning collection of songs by Reynaldo Hahn with pianist Roger Vignoles, from Sony Classical. Among the mezzo’s numerous honors are Musical America‘s Vocalist of the Year and an Opera News Award, while Gramophone magazine has dubbed her “America’s favorite mezzo.”
Caramoor’s orchestra-in-residence began in 1974 as a group of virtuoso musicians performing chamber music concerts at Greenwich Village’s Church of St. Luke in the Fields. Now in its 43rd season, the Orchestra performs diverse musical genres at New York’s major concert venues, and has collaborated with artists ranging from Renée Fleming and Joshua Bell to Bono and Metallica. In the fall of 2018, internationally celebrated expert in 18th-Century music, Bernard Labadie, will join the Orchestra as Principal Conductor, continuing the Orchestra’s long tradition of working with proponents of historical performance practice.
OSL’s signature programming includes a subscription series presented by Carnegie Hall, now in its 31st season; an annual multi-week collaboration with Paul Taylor American Modern Dance at Lincoln Center; an annual summer residency at Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts; and a chamber music festival featuring appearances at The Morgan Library & Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, and Merkin Concert Hall at Kaufman Music Center. The Orchestra has participated in 118 recordings, four of which have won Grammy Awards, has commissioned more than 50 new works, and has given more than 175 world, U.S., and New York City premieres.
Nearly half of OSL’s performances each year are presented free of charge through its education and community programs, reaching over 10,000 New York City public school students. Additionally, OSL provides free instrumental coaching and presents student performances through its Youth Orchestra of St. Luke’s and its Mentorship Program for Pre-Professional Musicians.
OSL built and operates The DiMenna Center for Classical Music in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City’s only rehearsal, recording, education, and performance space expressly dedicated to classical music. The DiMenna Center serves more than 500 ensembles and more than 30,000 musicians each year.
About the Music.
Program At a Glance
This concert featuring the illustrious mezzo-soprano Susan Graham with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s will be divided between two operatic geniuses, George Frideric Handel and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Both premiered in 1735, Handel’s last two Italian operas, Ariodante and Alcina, were among the very finest of his career. We will hear their overtures as well as three of their arias, including “Scherza, infida” — an aria that makes time stand still during its glorious course. Selections from two of Mozart’s stage works, The Marriage of Figaro and La clemenza di Tito, show his equal mastery of comic and serious opera. And we will also hear his magnificent “Linz” Symphony, written in only five days.
All the arias Ms. Graham has chosen are designed for male characters singing in a high range. Handel wrote the roles in Ariodante and Alcina for male castratos, now, of course, no longer on the scene. Mozart’s Cherubino and Sesto are “trouser roles,” created to be sung by a woman.
GEORGE FRIDERIC HANDEL
Selections from Ariodante and Alcina
Within just a few months in 1735, George Frideric Handel capped his illustrious career as a creator of Italian operas for London with two of his greatest operas, Ariodante and Alcina. They were his superb response to a situation that would have silenced a lesser composer. At this time, he was facing the sternest challenge of his operatic career: the arrival in London of Nicolo Porpora’s Opera of the Nobility, backed by none other than the Prince of Wales. With the Prince’s financial support, Porpora was able to steal away nearly all Handel’s vocal stars as well as the theater he used to present his operas.
Handel’s unlikely savior was the impresario John Rich, who ironically had been the producer of The Beggar’s Opera, the English-language ballad opera that had proved such a dangerous rival to the composer in 1728. Flush with profits from that show, Rich built a handsome new opera house at Covent Garden on the site of the present Royal Opera House and in 1734 invited Handel to go into partnership with him there. Between August and October of that year, Handel composed the vocally resplendent Ariodante, for this new house and introduced it there on January 8, 1735. The title role was written for a brilliant new singer Handel had secured from Italy, the castrato Giovanni Carestini. For Ariodante’s arias, Handel exploited Carestini’s phenomenal abilities in singing coloratura, his very large range, and his emotional expressivity.
The plot of Ariodante was taken from Ariosto’s epic poem of 1532 Orlando furioso, containing a series of stories about Christian knights battling against the Islamic Saracens in the Middle Ages. The romantic episode of the knight Ariodante and his betrothed Ginevra comes from cantos four through six and is set in Scotland. Polinesso, a jealous noble who has been rejected by Ginevra, hatches a plot to make Ariodante believe Ginevra has been unfaithful to him: a crime punishable by death in Scottish medieval society. Ultimately, this plot is discovered, Ariodante slays Polinesso in a trial by combat to prove Ginevra’s innocence, and the two are finally wed.
Though Handel more typically began his operas in a brilliant major key, Ariodante’sOverture is in dark G minor and forecasts that this opera will tell a more serious and profound story than a simple romance. In traditional Baroque overture form, it begins with a stately slow section featuring ceremonial dotted rhythms, then moves to a livelier Allegro with an emphatic repeated-note motive. We will also hear a French-style court dance and a gavotte, representing the elegant ballet music featured throughout this opera.
After Ariodante has defeated Polinesso and saved Ginevra, he sings his most spectacular vocal showpiece: the virtuosic “Dopo notte.” Its extremely challenging coloratura roulades are intensified by vivid rhythmic play, with syncopations and hemiolas spicing the rapid three-beat flow.
Earlier in the opera when he believes Ginevra has betrayed him, Ariodante reveals his pain in one of the greatest arias Handel ever wrote, “Scherza infide.” This was designed to show off the other side of Carestini’s artistry: his ability to sing with deep emotional expressiveness. The orchestral colors used here — sighing muted strings, plangent bassoons moaning in anguish — are a stroke of genius.
Three months after Ariodante’s premiere, Handel unveiled his last Italian masterpiece, Alcina. It contains quantities of his richest and most inspired music, which in a staged performance are bolstered by dazzling scenic effects. Also based on an episode from Ariosto’s Orlando furioso, it is set in medieval Europe around the time of Charlemagne. Alcina is a Circelike sorceress who lures men to her enchanted island, then turns them into wild beasts or inanimate objects once she tires of them.
Her latest victim is the knight Ruggiero, but there is a complication here: the evil Alcina has now for the first time fallen deeply in love. At first, Ruggiero returns her love, but when his fiancée, Bradamante, appears on the island, he learns of Alcina’s true character and his need to destroy her. In Act III, surrounded by Alcina’s soldiers, he prepares to fight them single-handed. Militant horn fanfares — which the singer imitates in her coloratura — add heroic ring to the bravura da capo aria “Stà nell’Ircana.”
We will also hear Alcina’s two-part Overture. Dramatic, swirling trills in the slow opening section conjure Alcina’s magical powers; vigorous leaps and blazing contrapuntal melismas add fire to the Allegro closing section.
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART
Overture and Two Arias from Le Nozze di Figaro
When Beaumarchais’ subversive comedy Le Mariage de Figaro premiered in Paris in 1784, it sent shock waves across Europe. Everyone wanted to see it, aristocrats read it on the sly, but the censors guarding Europe’s shaky monarchies on the eve of the French Revolution refused to allow it on the stage. The notion of a barber-valet and his lady’s maidfiancée opposing a count wishing to exercise the droit du seigneur with the bride on her wedding night and, worse still, making their aristocratic boss look like a fool before his entire household was just too threatening to the status quo.
There was always a rebellious, irreverent streak in Mozart, and it may well have contributed to his difficulty in obtaining a court post. So it is not surprising that this scandalous new play should have fascinated him as a subject for a comic opera. But how was he to get it past the censors? Fortunately, in the mid-1780s Mozart was in the good graces of Emperor Joseph II of Austria, who had banned the play from Vienna’s stages. But somehow the emperor was persuaded to allow an operatic treatment, particularly after Mozart’s librettist Lorenzo da Ponte had expurgated some of Figaro’s more revolutionary passages.
Joseph II’s leniency made possible one of Mozart’s supreme achievements. Instead of stock figures, Mozart’s music gives us flesh-and-blood, fully rounded characters: the hot-tempered but wily Figaro, his quick-witted bride Susanna, the sorrowing but tolerant Countess struggling with her husband’s infidelities, and the pompous Count who can’t seem to get his way as a proper Count should.
The ebullient Overture is Mozart’s most popular. Probably written just a few days before the opera’s premiere in Vienna on May 1, 1786, it is generally descriptive of the plot and characters rather than a medley of the opera’s highlights. It exudes a spirit of comic bustle with prominent use of the orchestra’s comedians, the bassoons. Much of the music is macho in spirit, presaging the battle to come between two hot-blooded men, Figaro and the Count.
Another of Figaro’s most unforgettable characters is the Count’s adolescent page Cherubino: a “trouser role” created to be played by a woman. In love with every female in the castle, Cherubino is overwhelmed by the force of his maturing sexuality. Mozart captures this perfectly in his opening aria, “Non so più cosa son,” in which each phrase tumbles out breathlessly after the previous one as he excitedly describes this confusing new state. More formal and controlled but still the product of his ardor, “Voi, che sapate” in Act II is supposed to be a song Cherubino has composed himself and which he sings to the sympathetic Countess and Susanna. Simple and sublime, it is one of Mozart’s loveliest melodies. The pizzicato strings in the orchestra represent Susanna’s accompaniment on the guitar.
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART
Symphony No. 36 in C Major, K. 425, “Linz”
Having fled the Salzburg court and his domineering father in 1781 and established himself as a freelance musician in Vienna, Mozart further outraged his parent the following year by marrying Constanze Weber, youngest daughter of the Weber family, whom Leopold Mozart despised as fortune hunters out to snare his genius son. In the summer of 1783, Wolfgang traveled to Salzburg with his bride hoping to reconcile, but the visit was awkward for all concerned and healed no wounds. In late October, he was probably delighted to return to Vienna, stopping en route at the city of Linz on the Danube.
There he was welcomed by Count Thun, one of Austria’s most powerful nobles, and entreated to stay awhile at the Thun castle. The count lost no time asking him to present one of his symphonies, and since the composer had none in his luggage, he decided to create one on the spot. But since the concert was scheduled for November 4th, he had barely five days to accomplish this feat.
The result was the Symphony known as the “Linz,” one of Mozart’s finest symphonic works and so inventive and beautifully crafted its short gestation seems unbelievable. This is music written to compliment a noble court, and Mozart sets it in C Major, a key he associated with lofty ceremony. It is a key in which the valve-less trumpets of the day sounded particularly well, and so trumpets and timpani enrich the Linz’s marvelous scoring.
Its first movement combines grandeur (the slow introduction’s impressive fanfare opening) with mystery (the winding, harmonically ambiguous lines for strings and woodwinds that follow). Both will be important elements throughout the movement and indeed the entire work. Then, the main Allegro section begins, with a surprisingly hushed launching of what soon becomes bold, assertive music. The winding lines from the introduction fill the development section of this movement perfectly balanced between relaxation and energy, introversion and extroversion.
Unusually for this period, Mozart chose to retain the trumpets and drums for the Poco Adagio in the second movement, another sonata form in F Major, but he used them with great discretion, adding nobility and subtle drama to this otherwise string-dominated and very melodious music. The gently lilting rhythm follows the Italian pastoral style known as the siciliano.
The third movement is in keeping with the minuet’s origins as a stately court dance. Its delicate middle or trio section also hews to tradition by featuring prominent woodwind parts for solo oboe and bassoon.
In a Presto tempo Mozart asked to be played “as fast as possible,” the finale combines soft-dynamic graciousness with forte energy. In its brief but brilliant development section, we hear a little downward-zigzagging figure — a theme Michael Steinberg describes as “like lightening in slow motion” — tossed from instrument to instrument in exciting faux-counterpoint.
With a grand, sweeping bow to the court, the “Linz” closes, as it began, with a fanfare.
WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART
“Deh per questo istante” from La Clemenza di Tito
The last year of Mozart’s life, 1791, was one of frantic creativity, poised against financial pressure, deteriorating health, and the composer’s growing fear that death would soon claim him. While he was in the midst of writing both The Magic Flute and the Requiem, he received a commission for an opera seria from the Bohemian Estates, a group of wealthy nobles, to celebrate the coronation of Emperor Leopold II of Austria as King of Bohemia. The Estates stipulated a well-worn libretto, La clemenza di Tito (“The Clemency of Titus”) written by Pietro Metastasio in 1734 and already set by many composers.
The opportunity to display his wares to the Emperor and aristocracy of central Europe was too good to pass up, and so Mozart put aside his comic opera and the Requiem and composed Tito in just a few weeks. The first performance was given on September 6, 1791 in Prague.
The Roman Emperor Titus was a hero to European thinkers in this period because of the generosity and mercy he showed to the Roman people and his opponents.
During his reign, Pompeii and Herculaneum were destroyed by Mt. Vesuvius’ terrible eruption (79 A.D.); the opera is set in the very next year when Rome experienced a severe fire.
However, it is not Titus (Tito) who is the most fascinating character in the opera, but rather his close friend Sextus (Sesto), another “trouser role” for mezzo-soprano. In love with Vitellia, Sesto is forced by her to attempt to murder Tito, a plot that fortunately goes awry. When Vitellia confesses her guilt, Tito demonstrates his clemency by pardoning both her and Sesto.
Mozart created two magnificent arias for this character; Susan Graham will sing the second, “Deh per questo istante,” which Sesto sings to Tito after he has been condemned to death. He asks Tito to remember their long friendship and tells him he regrets his betrayal more than the imminent death facing him. Flowing from an achingly beautiful Adagio section into a spirited Allegro, this noble aria sums up Sesto’s character and explains why Tito chooses to pardon him.